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Blocked Fuel Line Botched Military Satellite Orbit

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the dryer-lint-can-be-deadly dept.

The Military 86

Hugh Pickens writes "Dan Elliott reports that a piece of cloth inadvertently left in the fuel line during the manufacturing process may be the reason for the botched delivery to orbit of a military communications satellite that hasn't reached its planned orbit since it was launched in August. The Air Force Space Command and the contractor, Lockheed Martin, have devised a work-around plan using the remaining propulsion systems — reaction engine assemblies and electric Hall Current Thrusters drawing off of onboard fuel—to slowly raise the perigee of the Advanced Extremely High Frequency satellite until it reaches its intended orbit 22,300 miles over the Earth in October, but the GAO says that the $12.9 billion satellite system incurred at least $250 million in extra costs and a two-year delay because of quality problems due to poor workmanship, undocumented and untested manufacturing processes, poor control of those processes and materials and failure to prevent contamination, poor part design, design complexity, and an inattention to manufacturing risks. John Pike of Globalsecurity.org, which monitors defense issues, says the two-year delay is a bigger problem than the extra expense. 'You've got a lot of other things depending on the launch,' says Pike, including ground-based weapons."

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BLOW IT OUT YOUR ASS !! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36855922)

Or pipe, whichever is more productive !!

Why is this bad? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36855928)

Delaying ground based weapons is actually a good thing.

Air force and nasa (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36855962)

And people whine about NASA being ineffective and costly for putting two landers on a distant planet for the "enormous price" of half a billion of dollars.

2%? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36855970)

So a space war system had a cost overrun of $250M/$12.9B (2%), and now I'm surprised?mad?stirringup$#!+?

Re:2%? (2, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856044)

No, it's the $12.9B we gave the Pentagon/CIA for a piece of junk that doesn't work due to contractor incompetence that's stirring up shit, and rightly so.

Don Rumsfeld, is that you?

Re:2%? (1)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856854)

Shit happens. You've never made a mistake? However, it was Rumsfield's responsibility and ultimately Bush's.

Re:2%? (3, Insightful)

Monchanger (637670) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856988)

The whole reason we overspend on contractors is so mistakes don't occur. When they do there's rarely a good excuse, so it's no longer a mistake- it's generally due to negligence or corruption. That doesn't fall under the category of "shit happens."

Re:2%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36859962)

Considering the money involved, there should be a "guarantee to perform" clause on contracts involving this kind of money. That way there's no bullshit excuse to bilk taxpayers out of their money when something doesn't work. In other words, the government should be taking some percentage of the money back from Lockheed for their mistake. (Probably wouldn't be the first either. Anyone remember the O2 generators on F-22?)

Re:2%? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36857358)

Sounds more like ultimately Obama's than Bush's - it was pretty much all on Obama's watch.

Re:2%? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36858762)

Obama's mistake was not firing Gates from the Pentagon. All Gates can claim is $TRILLIONS in losing wars. Obama supposedly kept him around because Gates was willing to cut Pentagon budgets in exchange for keeping them still high and still wasted on losing wars. But maybe not.

Though even blaming Obama for not firing him and ending these stupid wars doesn't excuse Bush and Rumsfeld from creating them and running them for so many years.

Re:2%? (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36858880)

$12.9B shit happens? No, that kind of shit doesn't just happen. It's deliberate incompetence designed to feed cronies. Which is exactly what defined Rumsfeld's entire career.

Not surprising (0)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856008)

Since government contracts out to lowest bidder, or allegedly so. When costs are pared to the bone there's no way you're going to put processes in place to monitor the manufacturing process for something as complex as a satellite.

Re:Not surprising (3, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856296)

That's a nice soundbite, and thus guaranteed to get you modded up - but it's wrong. Everybody bids on the same contract, and part of that contract are the monitoring/QA processes and standards.

Re:Not surprising (2, Insightful)

Chris Mattern (191822) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856334)

The problem with that "answer" is that the contract has to completely cover *every possible loophole* or you get reamed. Quality depends more on the people you hire than the processes you follow anyways (though I'm not saying that good processes can't help a lot).

Re:Not surprising (4, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36857128)

The problem with your "answer" is that the military lets hundreds of contracts a year - and has been letting high tech and satellite contracts for better than half a century... So the loopholes are pretty well covered. Not to mention, the people hired (Lockheed in this instance) have built plenty of quality products over the years and have quite a bit of experience in their field.

So, once again, this is a nice soundbite and has a high chance of being modded up - but it's not really connected with the facts or history.

Re:Not surprising (3, Informative)

datapharmer (1099455) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856308)

Have you ever looked at a government contract? They almost never go to the lowest bidder. In fact many specifically state that price will not be considered unless you fall outside of the budget range which is stated in the requirements. You are mixing up road construction with defense spending.

Re:Not surprising (4, Informative)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856490)

Of course I have. Worked in state government for five years. Helped beat up a number of vendors who thought they could overcharge because it was the state.

Re:Not surprising (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856624)

Of course I have. Worked in state government for five years. Helped beat up a number of vendors who thought they could overcharge because it was the state.

Like datapharmer said, you are mixing up road construction with defense spending. How many defense contracts does your state government put out for? These are 2 completely different animals, with much different levels of oversight.

Re:Not surprising (1)

kilodelta (843627) | more than 3 years ago | (#36857518)

One brush was in law enforcement, the other in state. So the contracts were for things like criminal info systems, etc.

Re:Not surprising (1)

phobos512 (766371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36857882)

Sorry but that's absolutely not the same thing. Not even on the same planet.

Re:Not surprising (1)

black soap (2201626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871406)

No, with road contracts, they usually underbid just to get the contract, then make all profits in the chagne orders which aren't bid. If a project goes exactly as originally planned with no change orders, it can sometimes bankrupt the builder, leaving the road construction uncompleted while the bonding company and the local government work out whose fault it is that the construction was not accomplished.

Re:Not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36857618)

Lowest bidder among qualified applicants. In some cases there is only one qualified applicant and that qualified applicant is qualified because they are the only one who has the intellectual property rights, the drawings or the skilled labor to manufacture the item. At least the gov't believes this to be true.

At least this isn't like the government run Naval Air Warfare Center in Indianapolis that had an employee go git them some Colonel Clucker and managed to contaminate the gyroscope of a Poseidon missile gyroscope.

That's the same center that built the Norden bomb sight and actually did it well.

Re:Not surprising (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36858704)

Close enough for government work. Ill give it a C+ that it didn't explode on the pad.
but with only a little more funding...

Perfect.

Social Security for Military Contractors (2, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856036)

$12.9B for yet another military satellite for a Pentagon/CIA that doesn't detect or protect us from attacks that murder Americans and destroy our security, even though the GAO already knows the money was spent on incompetents.

$TRILLIONS in cuts to your Social Security pension that you paid into from your paychecks your whole working life. To protect the $TRILLIONS wasted on the Pentagon/CIA.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (5, Interesting)

the_raptor (652941) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856150)

It is funny how Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the military-industrial complex perverting American government in 1961 and was spot on.

This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.

Unfortunately the American citizenry turned out to be anything but "alert and knowledgeable". Companies like Lockheed Martin are effectively untouchable, I don't think there has been a major vehicle program since the 70's that wasn't rife with incompetence, distortion, and corruption. Massive naval vessels that aren't sea worthy have been accepted into service because of the collusion between the manufacturers and military officers running the development programs.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (3, Interesting)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856256)

Eisenhower spent his 8 years as president shoving as much money and power at the military-industrial complex as he possibly could. He was elected president based on his years as the US supreme commander in Europe, pushing the Western Front against the Russians' advancing Eastern Front to crush the Nazis, which shoved as much money and power into the military-industrial complex as was physically possible. Though the 1940s MIC feast was well worth the investment, his 1950s splurge wasn't.

Eisenhower deserves credit for calling out the military-industrial complex. But he was about to retire, untouchable, having made his entire career creating it.

The US could eliminate our deficits immediately by cutting our Pentagon/CIA budget to under $300B a year from its current $TRILLION+, and soon pay off the accumulated debt with the surplus. Vietnam + Iraq + Afghanistan = several $TRILLION, plus interest on the debt that paid for them is over 50% more (since we borrowed again and again to pay the interest). Plus all the veterans benefits including healthcare, housing, education, disability - rightly paid on a wrongfully bloated military force.

Instead we're stealing new $TRILLIONS for the Pentagon/CIA from the old deposits the latest generations have paid down on our Social Security pensions. With millions of Americans now throwing the US credit rating into the trash by voting for their politicians (mostly, but not exclusively, Republicans - all the Republicans). Who won't sacrifice a 5 year writeoff of private jets into a 7 year writeoff, even as the jets' owners get in return a drop from a 35% tax rate to a 29% rate, and their corporate taxes dropped even more.

The only war the Pentagon/CIA have won since Japan surrendered 2/3 of a century ago is the class war.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36857738)

The only war the Pentagon/CIA have won since Japan surrendered 2/3 of a century ago is the class war.

They've manged to kill a *lot* of people though.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

black soap (2201626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871416)

The CIA was doing pretty well in the Drug War, but I'm not sure they are on our side....

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

phobos512 (766371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36857902)

What you fail to understand however is the economic impact of cutting that budget. Yes, let's reduce defense spending. Which will lead to fewer contracts. Which will lead to fewer contractors. Which will lead to higher unemployment. Which will lead to greater entitlement spending. Which will lead to...suffering. HA! Take that, Yoda. It's a very delicate balance.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36858698)

Cutting the military spending instead of SS, Medicare or the rest of what's being cut instead would be a lot better. Most of the spending doesn't go to the labor, and a lot more gets sent overseas, and much less comes back in taxes. Besides, military personnel and contractors are better able to find other income than are the oldest, poorest and sickest Americans. Besides, SS doesn't even contribute to the debt, except in that it's a source of domestic loans to the government at a very low interest rate, so it allows the debt to exist without dependence on foreigners or banksters.

But of course the cutting of these social benefit repayment programmes is proposed to happen immediately, if not sooner. Those delicate balances are somehow just tough luck. When the same is suggested for the military and intel industry, well, they're just too soft to consider taking it, I guess.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36858910)

So you're saying that the military-industrial complex is too big to fail. [Soon] Welcome to the next level of governing: Dictatorship.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (0)

toddestan (632714) | more than 3 years ago | (#36859234)

This is a common fallacy I see nowadays - if it employs people, no matter what it is, it must be good. Keep in mind we're basically paying people to kill and blow stuff up here. We'd actually be better off if we just payed them to stay home - your so-called entitlement spending.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

feepness (543479) | more than 3 years ago | (#36860160)

The US could eliminate our deficits immediately by cutting our Pentagon/CIA budget to under $300B a year from its current $TRILLION+, and soon pay off the accumulated debt with the surplus.

Ummm, no. Our deficit in 2010 was $1,560B. The DOD was $664B. The CIA budget is classified, but $50B is a good guess.

Eliminating both entirely would only remove half the deficit. Those are real numbers. $TRILLIONS is not.

I concur strongly with cutting defense to, well, actually defending the borders. I also believe we need to raise taxes a bit. To actually reduce the deficit we'll need to cut else where as well.

But using inaccuracy and hyperbole will not make the case.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36862346)

The Iraq, Afghanistan and now Libyan wars cost several hundred $B more. The Pentagon/CIA expense includes budgets spread across many other agencies, like NASA's development and launch budgets for our military/spy satellites. $BILLIONS in "foreign aid" are bribes dual-purposed to American exporters, many of which are indistinguishable from the Pentagon/CIA (weapons, spy systems), and to bribes and other expenses (US funded joint war games, etc) to foreigners integrated with and specified by the Pentagon/CIA. The NSA and other spy/disinfo operations throughout the Federal agencies' budgets.

And all that's borrowed money, which means it's all 150% of the original expense by the time the banks (foreign and domestic) are paid their interest.

If we really spent only $300B a year on Pentagon/CIA, we'd save at least $1.2-1.5B. And the drag on the economy of spending that money on the bloated failure that is the Pentagon/CIA would drop, freeing more actually productive economics, which pay taxes. Taxes that should collect back a fair share from the rich who have demonstrably gained so much from the crooked economy to date, largely war profiteering (speculating on oil during the Iraq War, etc). Presto: a surplus that soon pays off the debt.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36860636)

The USA military is the equivalent of the social security/welfare that a lot of European countries have. You pay people to train and sit on their butts until they are needed for warfare (you do pay them more then most other countries pay for welfare though).

The only real difference is that you spend a crap-load on weaponry and other equipment whereas in "normal" welfare, you expect the recipients to pay for their own needs...

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36862294)

The other difference is that the US actually makes war with these welfare recipients. Killing lots of people, training them to kill and to respect killing for the rest of their lives. Military people are not counted among the unemployment rate, though they're over 1% of the workforce. And their work destroys capital and labor, while enabling a US foreign policy of destruction and intimidation instead of the cheaper and more productive investment and inducement. And cultivates the cult of authoritarianism...

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 3 years ago | (#36857172)

"Unfortunately the American citizenry turned out to be anything but "alert and knowledgeable"."

Americans get the government most deserve, though it sucks to be in the blast radius. The country is a Hellmouth.

If you contemplate the average "person in the street" they inspire so much contempt it's no surprise their betters don't hesitate to shit on them.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

VortexCortex (1117377) | more than 3 years ago | (#36858890)

Yeah, but realistically, the common people can't alter significantly the corrupt government through legal channels, or amass a militia to over-throw it.

... whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends [WRT the rights of Life, Liberty, Equality and Happiness], it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

- Declaration of Independence (United States of America).

Since we can't really exercise our "Right of the People to alter or to abolish" this corrupt government, thanks in large part to a massive, powerful and secretive Military industrial complex, the only outcome can be an eventual collapse from within, or an effective Dictatorship (which also may arise after a collapse). Dictatorships give rise to Monarchies as their heirs replace the leaders, then, well, you know what happens next.

Everything happens in cycles. Historic figures, despite their ENORMOUS effort to do so, haven't been capable of warning a majority of the current populous of repeating the vicious cycle...

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

black soap (2201626) | more than 3 years ago | (#36871450)

If you succeed, you were a revolutionary. If you fail, you are a traitor. Winner writes the history books. Story at 11.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856310)

$12.9B for yet another military satellite for a Pentagon/CIA that doesn't detect or protect us from attacks that murder Americans and destroy our security

That's a pretty simple minded view. Though I agree the bird is almost certainly overpriced, without communications the guys at the tip of the spear can't do their jobs.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36858746)

What's "pretty simpleminded" is your view of what I posted, because that's not what I posted.

It's the Pentagon/CIA that doesn't detect or protect us from attacks that murder Americans and destroy our security. Even though they already have hundreds of $BILLIONS in spy satellites, and even more in "guys at the tip of the spear". Too many guys, too many spears, too many satellites, not enough defense.

BTW, if you hadn't blurted that "simpleminded" comment, this could have been a debate, despite your mistakes, instead of an argument. But you did blurt. So that's all you get. Goodbye.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 3 years ago | (#36862448)

What's "pretty simpleminded" is your view of what I posted, because that's not what I posted.

Yes, that *is* what you posted. Your later backpedaling and bullshit trying to explain what you *really* meant doesn't change that. A competent poster would have said what he meant in the first place.

And it never would have been a debate in the first place. I don't fight unarmed individuals. I merely point and laugh at them.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36857920)

Maybe if our wise politicians hadn't spent SS on other things, people would have gotten what they paid in.

Re:Social Security for Military Contractors (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 3 years ago | (#36858770)

They spent our SS on Federal bonds that are worth at least 50% more now, without any losses. The SS fund has something like 2 $TRILLION+, more than enough to pay all checks for at least another decade, and probably for another several decades.

And in the meantime the SS spent on other things kept the country going. Though if they'd spent it on activities that actually defend and build America instead of on the military (and the interest on the military's debts), we'd be a lot better off, and retirees would have the safe interest coming back larger in their pensions.

some issues (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36856040)

quality problems due to poor workmanship, undocumented and untested manufacturing processes, poor control of those processes and materials and failure to prevent contamination, poor part design, design complexity, and an inattention to manufacturing risks

Sounds like the same team that built my Windstar.

not surprising, unfortunately (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36856066)

It seems to me that it is impossible for organizations like NASA and the Pentagon to actually learn from their mistakes. Every so often a major disaster involving management and quality control forces everyone into panic, and hundreds of recommendations to fix the systemic lack of control are put forward, some acted upon... until ten years later the new regime decides that all that fussing with process and verification and actually trying to FIND problems in the program/product are a waste of money. Because, hey, it's been ten years since something Fell Down, so we've obviously got things sorted out.

I blame managers. They pride themselves on knowing nothing about the work they manage, and don't have the courage to stand up to their bosses when push comes to shove. In the end, the myopic focus on the "bottom line" leads to expensive and potentially terminal errors in design and production. And in projects that last a decade, why should anyone in management care? They'll likely be out of that job and into a new one before their mistakes become obvious to everyone.

Re:not surprising, unfortunately (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36857464)

The problem with NASA/Pentagon projects like this is that they are essentially single unit productions. As such, they have more in common with artisan-type craft work than mass production. And the skills needed to do this work are more demanding than assembly line work. The end result of this is that you need to retain more talented labor (IOW: pay more) and engage in more ad-hoc communication between the crafts and engineering than what contractor, subcontractor communications can tolerate.

Re:not surprising, unfortunately (1)

phobos512 (766371) | more than 3 years ago | (#36857932)

$250M additional expenditure and a two year delay is hardly a "major disaster" in the scheme of things. They still got the system, and it will eventually meet requirements. It could be a hell of a lot worse. For example, the A-12 debacle. Canceled in 1991 and STILL working its way through the court system. Multi-billion dollars of expenditures for zero useful product. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McDonnell_Douglas_A-12_Avenger_II [wikipedia.org]

What penalties? (4, Insightful)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856148)

The Air Force Space Command and the contractor, Lockheed Martin...

And what penalties is Lockheed Martin going to pay for the shoddy workmanship and untested processes? Will they have to reimburse the government for the expense? Lose their ability to bid on government contracts?

When there's no accountability, there's no incentive to fix anything.

Re:What penalties? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36856192)

They're all in bed so there's no accountability else the program managers don't get their cusy jobs with the military contractors after their service is up. Shoehornjob

Re:What penalties? (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856682)

The Air Force Space Command and the contractor, Lockheed Martin...

And what penalties is Lockheed Martin going to pay for the shoddy workmanship and untested processes? Will they have to reimburse the government for the expense? Lose their ability to bid on government contracts?

When there's no accountability, there's no incentive to fix anything.

They get first shot at the next set of contracts, like usual.

Re:What penalties? (2)

crankyspice (63953) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856782)

And what penalties is Lockheed Martin going to pay for the shoddy workmanship and untested processes?

Lose contracts to SpaceX? It's funny, I just heard a PHB from Lockheed on NPR (as part of a story on SpaceX) bragging about their QC processes and reliability...

Re:What penalties? (1)

CtownNighrider (1443513) | more than 3 years ago | (#36863290)

SpaceX has said publicly that it will hold to it's published prices, if there are cost overruns they eat the cost.

Re:What penalties? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36856788)

And what penalties is Lockheed Martin going to pay for the shoddy workmanship and untested processes?

Another government contract.

Re:What penalties? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36857024)

I happen to know someone who works for a company that subcontracted to Lockheed Martin on (unrelated parts of) this satellite project. What he tells me is that they are indeed being charged or going to be charged for the problem...and have already begun efforts to pass as many of those fines along to their subcontractors as possible. His team's particular piece of the project was the database - but why should that matter if it saves Lockheed money to pass along the costs of their mistakes?

Re:What penalties? (2)

PPH (736903) | more than 3 years ago | (#36857324)

Lockheed Martin will be required to take all their MBAs who pushed Six Sigma process controls on to their satellite production business out behind the factory and put a bullet through each ones head.

Flip it around. (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 3 years ago | (#36857942)

When there's no accountability, there's no incentive to fix anything.

Here's how I'd run government: "When the satellite reaches proper orbit and tests out, you'll get the first 80% of the $12.4B. When it's operational for a year, you'll get the remainder.

A decent mix of investors, lenders, and insurance would allow this kind of project, yet every player would demand excellent quality.

Re:Flip it around. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36858194)

In reality it never works that way. Lockheed Martin is sitting on almost $4B in cash right now, which still isn't enough to pay for the development of AEHF through deployment. Hell, $4B is barely enough for them to continue operations for a couple weeks if they stopped receiving funds from the USG.

Lockheed is just the integrator/launcher (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36858162)

A lot of times, the name of the company you see on news is just the name of the INTEGRATOR. The parts are subcontracted (by the government) to multiple companies and integrated at some facility owned by the integrator. Those parts are manufactured, tested and certified by subcontractor. The integrator is only required to test the integrated product, not the specific parts.

In this case, it is very likely that Lockheed didn't build the part and that the error happened at some facility with crappy standards of a what ever cheap company the government decided to give the subcontract.

Re:What penalties? (1)

devnullkac (223246) | more than 3 years ago | (#36858860)

From the article:

...the company's "remaining award fee" would be reduced by $15 million because of the fuel line problem.

Perhaps not enough to balance the costs of delayed implementation, but not nothing, either. And almost certainly exactly what the contract authors expected. Now, as to whether military contracts like these are structured to properly protect the nation, that's another question. But the US government is obliged to use its monopsony [wikipedia.org] wisely so as to prevent total collapse of the suppliers.

vs. The James Webb (1)

afourney (2183166) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856324)

They spent 12.9B on a poor quality military communications satellite, and yet they want to cancel the James Webb space telescope because its projected cost rose to 6.8B!?! Our priorities are all wrong!

Re:vs. The James Webb (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36856410)

The telescope is unlikely to be used to spy on you or to infringe on your rights. In that regard it is un-useful to the national security state. They need spy gear and to funnel your tax money to rich fat cats. Everything else is secondary.

Re:vs. The James Webb (3, Interesting)

Trapezium Artist (919330) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856714)

AEHF is a system of four satellites, I think, not just one, but nevertheless, I completely agree with what you're saying re: JWST. It's crazy.

Interestingly, AEHF is a military communications system with data rates up to 8Mbit/s from an orbit of 22,000 miles, while JWST has a data rate in excess of 10Mbit/s from L2, i.e. just under a million miles. The comparison is completely specious, I realise (just think about the size of the comms antennae involved, uplink vs downlink, and so on), but amuses me nonetheless :-)

Re:vs. The James Webb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36856920)

AEHF data rate is probably lower because its communications systems are designed so that you cannot detect that any communication is even occurring. The transmissions from AEHF appear as pure noise to the observer. I heard a rumor that AEHF is for the President to communicate with the military.

Re:vs. The James Webb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36857418)

you cannot detect that any communication is even occurring. The transmissions from AEHF appear as pure noise to the observer.

I don't know if this is true or not, but there has to be some characteristics that a receiver (if friend then foe) can discern the signal from real noise.

Re:vs. The James Webb (1)

Agripa (139780) | more than 3 years ago | (#36859996)

I don't know if this is true or not, but there has to be some characteristics that a receiver (if friend then foe) can discern the signal from real noise.

Spread spectrum modulation would allow this. If you have either GPS access or accurate clocks, then the receiver can be initially synchronized with the transmitter even though the spread transmission is significantly below the noise floor. Accurate timing is necessary to limit the code space to be searched.

The coarse acquisition code for GPS does this but the code area to search is small and the signal is not spread enough to hide it.

Re:vs. The James Webb (1)

edxwelch (600979) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856958)

...so, you are suggesting they use the James Webb space telescope to spy on the Taliban?

Re:vs. The James Webb (2)

squidguy (846256) | more than 3 years ago | (#36857090)

AEHF is designed to be LPI and jam resilient. JWST's downlink isn't.

Re:vs. The James Webb (1)

Trapezium Artist (919330) | more than 3 years ago | (#36858792)

I know; that's why I said that my comparison was specious.

I didn't mean for it to be taken seriously; I was just amused by the roughly coincident data rates.

Re:vs. The James Webb (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36857108)

One 10Mbps pipe from a fixed location to a honkin big antenna on the ground isn't nearly as impressive as multiple, multimegabit links to human packable ground terminals.

Today, we do megabits from Mars to Earth, but it's a 34 meter antenna on the ground...

Shuttle (2)

ISoldat53 (977164) | more than 3 years ago | (#36856540)

Maybe we could use the shuttle to go capture it and move it into it's proper orbit.

Re:Shuttle (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | more than 3 years ago | (#36858068)

Neat idea! Unfortunately, we're talking a 22,000 mile orbit--I think the highest the Shuttle has gone is 400 miles.

Also, this satellite wasn't designed to be serviced in orbit, so there's nothing for a Shuttle arm to grab onto so that they could fix the problem, refuel it, and send it on it's way.

Still, it's a neat idea. Pity it won't work.

Re:Shuttle (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36868904)

At the very least, they could have rigged up some way of capturing the satellite, returning with it to Earth where it could be properly fixed, then launched once again on a rocket.

good thing NASA's new space capsule design leaves room for cargo......oh wait

just fix the satellite (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36856872)

during the next shuttle missio.... uhhh....never mind.

The Problem with Defense Contractors (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36857926)

Sorry for the AC, but I actually work for Lockheed Martin.

The problem with defense contracting in the United States is, the government itself has created this system and we reap what we have sown. I'm not saying contractors always do right and aren't to blame for situations like this. Quite the contrary.

But the whole way the system works needs a major overhaul. For instance, we're awarded contracts to produce systems. Costs are already astronomical because the government places extremely costly requirements on process and all kinds of other things that may or may not make the products better. The levels of bureaucracy are mind boggling. And you've heard the term "nanny state", well, that's nothing compared to the type of involvement the government has in these programs.

People think the government says, "we need a satellite" and then a while later, we build one and they cut us a check. It doesn't work like that at all. There are contract award fees and admittedly, I'm an engineer and I don't fully understand how the finances work, but we're constantly trained on proper time recording because those hours are billed to the government. Sounds nice until you consider this: what would you do if you walked into Home Depot to buy an appliance or something and they started talking about billing hours to you? You'd run out of there at a full sprint. So why is it that we're not just making products and selling them at a fixed price? In other words, why are we not saying, "we made this system, if you want it, it costs $75 million", or whatever the prices is?

This is how cost overruns happen. What would happen if some appliance manufacturer, in bringing a new dishwasher to market, had technical challenges, manufacturing problems, labor issues, whatever, such that when it hit the market, it cost $50,000? They wouldn't sell one. Now, take it a step further and say you went into the store and pre-ordered one before these issues and while this stuff is happening, they're billing you for hours and moving the completion date and things like that? This is the way defense contracting works, not because we asked for this system, but because this is the way the government has run the system. When GM puts a car on the lot at a dealer, there's a price tag on it based on what it's worth, not based on cost-overruns during R&D. Sure, they need to price things in a way that will recoup that development cost, but they have to balance that with what will move vehicles.

The basic point is, contractors deserve some blame, but ultimately, the lesson is that government cannot and will not efficiently develop anything of its own. If you think that taking the work out of the hands of contractors and just making it a government enterprise will change anything, you are sadly mistaken. The contractors are the beast that has sprung up out of the system because of the way the system works, not because contractors are somehow greedy and evil. Contrary to popular belief, there is a general desire to do good work and to put out products to be proud of, not some concerted effort to pull the wool over people's eyes and to milk the government for all it's worth. Yes, there examples of bad behavior on contractors' parts, and we are to blame for those things, but the system allows that stuff to happen without sufficient consequence.

Re:The Problem with Defense Contractors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36859542)

"the lesson is that government cannot and will not efficiently develop anything of its own."

Not as long as lobbyists are running things.

Taxpayers Shouldn't Foot The Bill (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36858156)

And why does the taxpayer have to foot the bill of this if it doesn't work?
In the *real world* if you deliver something that doesn't work, you don't get paid.

There is no reason why the taxpayer should be paying for cost over runs, design defects, ect.
The contractor bid on the project, time to hold *them* accountable.

Re:Taxpayers Shouldn't Foot The Bill (1)

vm146j2 (233075) | more than 3 years ago | (#36858522)

Listen, you whiny Winifreds:

When it comes to the DEFENSE of the FREE WORLD, MONEY is NO OBJECT!

Re:Taxpayers Shouldn't Foot The Bill (1)

rubycodez (864176) | more than 3 years ago | (#36860568)

you say defense, I say subjugation, whatever.

EMDRIVE should have been a propulsion component (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36859914)

The mil should have used an emdrive propulsion system. Would have been lighter and left no worries on fuel requirements making it effectively cheaper

Now you tell us? (1)

CSMoran (1577071) | more than 3 years ago | (#36862600)

Too late.

Wait what's under that sticker on that panel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36860268)

*scrapes* oh... "Made In China" *facepalm*

Not China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36860760)

Any technology failure/goof-up by China is made fun of, but not if it USA

Re:Not China (1)

CSMoran (1577071) | more than 3 years ago | (#36862616)

goof-up by China is made fun of, but not if it USA

Because if it USA, it not China and thus irrelevant.

2 words (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#36873174)

Lowest Bidder

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